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Aloe Blacc - None More Blacc

Author: Daniel Crichton-Rouse
Thursday, 27 September 2007
Emanon’s Aloe Blacc has a lot of stories. Setting up Blu with Exile, becoming a part of Stones Throw Records, hanging out with J Dilla… 3D’s Daniel Crichton-Rouse heard some of them.

Shine Through is your first solo record outside of Emanon. Why did you decide to go solo-

The material I write and produce as a solo artist is much different from the music I make with Exile when we are working on an EMANON release. I have ideas and expressions that I want to present in my own way, so I do them myself. We are both quite independent workers when it comes to production and Exile has his own solo projects on the way aside from the Dirty Science producer album he just dropped.

Quite often an artist’s debut album is the culmination of many years of work. Are the songs that make up Shine Through tracks you’ve been writing for years, or were they written recently with this album in mind-
Shine Through is more of a carefully orchestrated compilation to me than an album. A few songs were a couple of years old and others were made shortly before submitting the final iteration of the album. For instance, Long Time Coming was completed a few years before the album and I’m Beautiful was conceived and recorded just before the mastering sessions. I am always working on new music and I like to choose a variety of styles for my album because it best represents how I make songs on a regular basis.

You been working with Exile for over a decade now – you guys must be pretty tight, yeah- How did you meet-
Exile and I are very good friends – almost brothers. I met him through a high school friend named Anthony Johnson who mentioned that I would be a good emcee for his next mixtape. We started working and never stopped until I introduced him to Blu a few years ago. Then I started on my solo work for Stones Throw and they began working on Below the Heavens and Dirty Science for Sound In Color.
We don’t hang as much as we used to because we are so busy with our own separate careers but lately we have been getting back together to start working on the next Emanon release. I have written several songs to his beats already. This time around I requested a different method than the old style of creating an album.
Exile can be really picky sometimes, especially with me since we know each other so well. When he hears my music from other releases that don’t involve him he is always really pleased with what I do, but when we work together he has a very strong opinion. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. So this time I told him that we should create the entire musical landscape for the album and I will write the album’s lyrics over it. No more song by song or pick the best one mess. We are both mature enough at what we do respectively that whatever the outcome it will be something special for our fans and new listeners.

And the Stones Throw crew – how did you hook up with them-

I toured Europe in 2002 with DJ Romes, Wildchild, OHNO, MED, and DJ P-Trix. When we came home I began recording to OHNO beats and some of the songs were vocal joints where I was singing. PB Wolf heard them and was interested in me releasing a single on Stones Throw with that singing style. I released a single, Want Me, and then signed an album deal.
It feels good to be part of a historic label like Stones Throw. I consider it the Blue Note of hip hop, but the label is growing to be much more than just traditional hip hop. Every artist and employee at Stones Throw is a music lover and understands that what we do is informed by a lifetime of music beyond the scope of hip hop. That is why I think I am on the label. I think PB Wolf recognised that I had a style on the edges of tradition and embraced what I did.

Earlier in the year you toured Europe again with Exile, Illa J and House Shoes to pay tribute to J Dilla. What sort of a role did J Dilla play in your musical career-
J Dilla is an iconic figure in my development.
His music made such a difference on the way I produce beats because I was just getting into his sound when I got my own equipment. My close friends kept telling me to listen to Slum Village and how great it was, but I didn’t pay any attention. I bought the album and left it in the plastic wrapping for months before I actually opened it. I was in college at the time, so I was busy with studies but also not really interested in listening to hip hop at the time. I was listening to a lot of Brazilian artists like Astrud Gilberto, Sergio Mendez and Antonio Carlos Jobim.
When I finally realised that all the dope songs at the clubs that my friends and I would bust to were Dilla joints it changed my mind about Slum, so I cracked open the Fantastic Vol II album and started listening. I am now a devoted fan. Dilla can do no wrong in my opinion. He was the best producer/emcee to share his music with us. He had such a genius approach that is unmatched by anyone else I have heard in hip hop.
One night, before he fell sick for the last time (RIP), we were out at a Georgia Anne Muldrow / Omar concert in LA and he asked me a very important question. It rings in my head all the time. He said he’s heard so much different music from me that he couldn’t figure out what I was trying to do. “What are you trying to do-” The answer I gave him was that I want to stay diverse because I want to write and produce for other folks in many different genres. It is still a question I ask myself to this day.

Can you tell us a little about the other side to Aloe Blacc – the producer of country and folk- Are you working on any projects in this area at the moment-
I started listening to folk music back in high school when I was still collecting vinyl. Something about a lone voice and a guitar or a piano speaks to me. I really felt like trying my hand at it, so I started experimenting a bit and kept it all to myself of course.
I look to writers like Lionel Richie, Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, etc. as my mentors. They all made so much music that was so diverse, it informs me that as a writer I have to listen to my inner voice and deliver the words without censoring myself. Genre categorisation is a commercial abstract that helps sell music, so I don’t concern myself with it so much. However, if I am playing the guitar and singing, the sound will be categorised as folk most likely because of the way it sounds even if I consider it pure soul. I am not working on any folk or country projects right now. The songs come to me at different times, so I just document my mind as the words fall and compile the styles later.

Finally, what are you looking forward to the most about your Oz trip-

I am really looking forward to understanding the music climate here. Apart from being an artist, I enjoy the psychology of entertaining. Australia is a bit different from where I have developed my music and groomed my performance habits, so I am really interested in learning about the Aussie audiences and their tastes. I want to know what makes Oz hip hop tick and see if I can predict where it may go with my limited observation.

WHO: Aloe Blacc
WHAT: Plays Melt @ Kings Cross
WHEN: Friday 5 October